New Theory on Mystery Tic Illness: Blame Facebook
LeRoy teens might unconsciously mimic each other: Neurologist
By Dustin Lushing,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 8, 2012 6:05 PM CST
A screen shot from YouTube made by one of the teenagers who is suffering from the mystery illness.   (

(Newser) – Erin Brockovich is testing soil samples to see whether there might be a toxic link to a mysterious illness hitting teens in upstate New York, but a neurology professor has a different culprit in mind: Facebook and other forms of social media. He thinks the victims—more than a dozen teenagers have started displaying serious facial tics and twitching—could be unconsciously mimicking each other after seeing videos on Facebook and YouTube, reports WKBW of Buffalo. (The outbreak is in nearby LeRoy.)

"I think you do have the potential for people going online and witnessing other student's behavior, then I think this medium has the potential to spread it beyond the immediate environment," says the University of Buffalo professor. The idea is that a handful of the kids have a genuine ailment such as Tourettes, and the symptoms spread to others who are especially "stressed and suggestible." Click for more on the outbreak.